If your new machine LEAKS, see note #2 below. I am just amazed at how many people write that their machine leaked from day one, and they returned it. It will leak if you skip a crucial one-time set-up step.
Paid $170 at Best Buy. This is my first carpet cleaner so I have nothing to compare it to except my own expectations. Even though the name is SteamVac, like all the others in this class of cleaners, there is no Steam to it. That's just false marketing, but all the manufacturers do it, so no particular knock on Hoover.
First, let me say I'm ashamed to admit that our carpet hadn't been cleaned in 4 years, and that we live in the country where lots of dirt gets tracked in from outside. So the carpet was pretty darn dirty. The Hoover F5914-900 did a very nice job the first time I used it - a drastically noticeable difference in the appearance of the carpet. The water in the dirty water receptacle was black. Did it return the carpet to new condition? No, impossible. Did it take another treatment or two to really get it clean? Yes, that is the price I pay for ignoring wet-cleaning the carpet for years. One of this cleaner's best features is the ability to dry the carpet quite thoroughly. Since the front of the machine is made of clear plastic, you can see when you're vacuuming up water. If you want to dry the carpet as much as possible, keep vacuuming until you no longer see water being pulled up. As time has passed, the SteamVac has done an excellent job of maintaining my carpets.
My only gripe is that the dirty water container fills up too quickly and should be a little bigger. Ideally, the dirty water receptacle "should" be full right as you run out of clean water. Then, you shut down, empty the dirty water, refill the clean water and back to work. But this process gets out-of-sync with the dirty water receptacle filling up before you run out of clean water. So this can be a little inconvenient, but not a show-stopper.
The machine is well constructed but it IS plastic, with lots of compartments and latches and hose holders, etc, so one must simply be careful or those things will no doubt break off.
A few other notes:
1. If you are not the type to read manuals, do read this one. Assembly and operation are easy if you sit down and read the manual through before starting. It's not like a vacuum cleaner where you just plug it in and go.
2. My machine leaked badly BUT it was my own fault. There is a one-time only setup procedure where you squeeze the trigger and push the Clean-Surge button to lock a rod into place. Push the Clean-Surge button firmly. There may be a loud SNAP which sounds like you broke something, but you didn't. Until you get that snap, the Clean-Surge (which releases extra water-cleaner solution) is on all the time, hence the leaking. I didn't push the button hard enough initially, so I had the leak problem.
EDIT December 2007
Apparently many people are assuming that without a loud snap, the Clean Surge will not work. All that matters is that your machine doesn't leak. If your SteamVac doesn't leak, it is assembled properly and the Clean Surge will work!!! The only reason I emphasized the "snap" was because so many people were having leak problems, which are easily solved. And it's possible that Hoover has changed the design after getting so many returns from people who didn't read the instructions in the manual. So don't get hung up on the snap. If your machine does leak after assembly, you know what to do.
3. ANY time it seems like there is no suction, the problem is that something is not seated properly. It is easy to snap the lid onto the dirty water container without lining it up properly, which causes a vacuum leak. If there is a vacuum leak, there is no suction at the bottom of the machine, where it is needed to suck up water from the carpet. Plus you'll see that the brushes aren't turning, as they're driven by vacuum. So recheck the dirty water lid. Carefully line up the hinges at the back. The front should snap closed very easily. If you have to force it a little to snap it closed, it means the back is not aligned properly and you'll get no suction.
4. If you have velvet or velvetine furniture, do NOT use the powered tool, use the utility tool. The powered tool is too strong for delicate fabric.
5. Like others have suggested, find a cheap alternative to the Hoover brand carpet detergent. One gallon of water doesn't clean a lot of carpet, and at 5 oz of soap per gallon, you go thru it fast.
6. Always be sure to dry vacuum your carpet with a regular vacuum cleaner first before using this machine to wash it. Be sure to remove and clean the brushes when you're done using this machine. Otherwise hair, thread, and balled up carpet fibers will dry on them and between them. Then the brushes won't turn. These are not "use and put away" machines like vacuum cleaners, they're "use, clean, and put away".
7. Here's something I do which you *might* want to try. For a very dirty carpet, I fill a cheap plastic 2 gallon watering can (or smaller for a smaller carpet) with hot water and a tablespoon or 2 of Oxy Clean. I then sprinkle the carpet heavily, being careful not to soak it. Then use the Hoover normally. Of course, this fills up the waste water receptacle long before the soapy water container is empty, but it still saves trips to the sink to load up on clean, soapy water.
8. Others have suggested using boiling water. Not for me, thanks. Too dangerous to handle and unnecessary, unless you've spilled or tracked in grease.
After reading countless reviews here, I have concluded that the problems people have encountered are from failing to properly set up the machine initially, failing to seat the dirty water lid properly, or failing to clean the machine after use. I recommend this Hoover. It won't perform miracles, but I think if it is not abused it will last a long time and do an excellent job of maintaining a carpet.
The F5914 really cleans carpets well. On my worst carpet area, the cleaner did as well as a commercial carpet cleaner. I recommend the following to make it a successful cleaning:
1) I supplement the hot water with some boiling water to really get the temperature up. By the time the water hits the spray nozzle, it has really cooled off so make it hotter. Bissell uses a heater, but it can't be that powerful without reducing motor power. Best to supplement.
2) Patience. Go slow and go over really bad areas. You will HAVE to pretreat and hand wash heavy stains, but so do the pros. Don't expect a diamond out of coal. You still have to do the work.
3) Clean often. I have one carpet that I waited way too long and it just won't come clean. The pros can't and I can't. BIG lesson learned there.
Have fun with this. I can't believe how much dirt there was in my "clean" areas, so it will be great to have this around to clean when I desire to. I saved more than the price of the cleaner this weekend.